Thursday, September 16, 2010

Look! Up in the clouds!!!

Today's Tech Gospel is about cloud computing and how it can affect everyday users.  So what exactly is "Could Computing"?

Have you ever forgotten a file at home or at work?  Searched for an email at work then remembered it was in your home computer?  Brought a file to a presentation only to find out that it isn't the revised version?  Or had countless 'final version' drafts of a single document emailed back and forth for revisions all saved on your computer?

To understand cloud computing, and take full advantage of it, I have to give a brief explanation on how computing has been done so far.

Currently, most people are running on what is known as client, or client-server type computing.

Client based computing is where each computer functions independently.  Your computer is only as capable as the software and hardware installed.  You wanted to have an encyclopedia, then you had to have the appropriate software installed on a computer that could handle the program.  Email was downloaded and stored physically on your machine.  Files are saved and stored on your hard drive.

Client-server computing was born in the business environment.  This allowed a central computer (the server), to hold master copies of all documents, files, and programs.  Then each employees computer (the client) would access the files from the server.  This was (and still is) the prevalent setup.  This allowed a much more powerful computer to handle larger tasks, files and requests.  It allowed corporate email to be stored in a more secure environment than an employees personal or issued computer.  And it offset costs to a single main server, instead of the many client machines.

Cloud computing is a complete shift.  Transferring most of the data and computing requirements over to the internet.  The earliest form of cloud computing is web-based email (like Yahoo).  Essentially a large client-server setup, but having no single computer, it has been dubbed the cloud.

Because of this, mobile devices now have more capabilities than ever before simply because they don't need to do the heavy work.  Not just simple email storage and retrieval.  But actual functionality.

Wikipedia is a good example of cloud computing, where information is created by, well, everyone.  Information is not saved on each individual computer but instead, just accessed and displayed by end users.  The main entries are all stored, edited and archived online.

Google Maps is another form of cloud computing, where all the maps and details are not stored on your device.  This allows the maps to be updated each time you visit the site.  No need to store large maps or install updated locations.  The cloud is always being updated.

Another is Google's Voice Search feature.  (More on this in a future post) Almost no mobile device has the computing or storage capacity to do on-the-fly voice recognition... what your Android or iPhones do is pass your recorded voice command to the cloud, where a battery of servers decipher your speech and transcribe it to text, which is then passed on to Google's Search engine.

Google Voice Search on Android also plugs into other Android apps as well, allowing voice command and voice to text capabilities without the need to "train" your device.

Other examples are Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, and Yahoo Messenger.

The greatest advantage of cloud computing is the lack of dependence on a single physical machine.  I no longer have to bring my laptop around to access my old emails.  Work documents, presentations and schedules can be updated remotely and no longer have to be sent via email.


All you have to do is log into your account, and the information that you had at home or work, is available to you almost anywhere... on almost any machine.  Cloud storage such as Dropbox almost eliminates the need for a USB thumb drive.  While Wuala allows sharing of large files without the need for the recipient to download a program or sign up to the service.


With the internet, we are no longer tied to a single location.

With cloud computing, we are no longer tied to a single machine.

Past Tech Gospels

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